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Authors: Chelsea Quinn Yarbro

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his own intuitions had no confirmation, either in word or blood; he had not pressed the matter with Leocadia and now wondered if his reticence had been as reasonable as he intended. “I do not know anything for certain, and my suppositions are only speculation, without foundation or her confirmation. I cannot defy the Church and the Courts on her behalf because I suspect one of her brothers may have exceeded his authority. I could bring calumny on myself, and upon her.”

“Then you will do nothing because you are afraid,” Maurizio accused.

“Why, yes,” Ragoczy agreed without any sign of dismay. “Any prudent man would be. The law is in the hands of the Church, Maurizio, and is more stringent than merciful; you have seen for yourself how justice is meted out in these Papal States. If you do not fear the Pope’s Little House, you are worse than temerarious, which does neither you nor Leocadia good.” He took a step back, creating more than a slight separation between them. “I must make arrangements with my coachmen.”

“For her leaving,” said Maurizio sullenly.

“Yes. For her leaving.” He could summon up no words of comfort for the young man that would not lead to renewed and fruitless argument, so he continued into the stable, calling for Matyas and Amerigo as he went down the wide, well-swept aisle between the rows of box-stalls. “I have arrangements to make so that our guest may depart in a fashion to which she is entitled. I cannot wait much longer to put them into action. Matyas!” He was rewarded by a whuffle from Callista’s stall.

Then “Here I am,” called Matyas, coming from the tack-room. “Amerigo has gone to get his prandio.” He made it sound as if stopping work for the mid-day meal was a shocking lapse. “He will return when he is done—for his afternoon rest.” Again he made this usual routine seem unpardonable.

“Of course. I should have looked for him in the servants’ dining room. And you, too, for that matter,” Ragoczy said, giving his Hungarian coachman a speculative look. “Is there some reason you have not joined them?”

“I have my own food—not that pap the others eat. Lamb and lentils! What kind of meal is that for a man? Might as well eat clover with the lambs, or hay with the horses.” He slapped his chest. “I have my meat with onions and peppers and garlic, to keep my blood strong.” His breath attested to this. “I know what gives a man power, and I take care of myself.”

“Then ask my cooks to make that kind of dish for you,” Ragoczy recommended. “It is their work, as tending to my horses and coaches is yours.”

“They know nothing, your cooks,” said Matyas, then looked embarrassed. “That is nothing against you, master. It is just that they are not used to appetites like mine. They put rosemary and basil in their meat. I ask you!”

Ragoczy laughed once. “Very well, Matyas. Do as you wish.”

“And so I shall,” said Matyas. He cocked his head. “Is it true that the penitent is leaving? I heard one of the men-at-arms say so to the stable-boy.”

Ragoczy nodded. “Her brother is here.”

“Are you certain that he
is
her brother, and not some imposter?” Matyas asked, revealing his distrust of Ursellos.

“Yes. I have met him in Roma. He is her brother and he has the right to take her home.” Ragoczy gave a small cough. “We must do what we can to make this as easy for her as we can.” He continued down the aisle to the tack-room. “I think it will be best to use the chestnuts, and have them pull the servants’ coach.”

Matyas bristled. “She deserves your best, master. You know she does.”

Ragoczy sighed. “That is true; but it would be poor conduct on my part if I were to put her in my own coach, with my eclipse blazoned on the side and my greys in harness. I might as well announce to the world that she has been staying here, and that I have given her protection. That would make the rumors into a storm of scandal by sundown.” He shrugged. “The servants’ coach is an anonymous vehicle that might belong to anyone, and chestnuts are not seen as my horses. She deserves to have her return to her family be as unremarkable as possible.”

“I take your meaning, master,” said Matyas. “No doubt the Romans have already thought of many explanations for her absence, each more outlandish than the last.” He pondered this problem. “The chestnuts are a good choice, for they are handsome enough not to look disrespectful of the young woman.”

“You take excellent care of them,” Ragoczy said, and went on briskly, “You will have the servants’ coach brought round, and you will see to the harnessing of the chestnuts. Amerigo will drive the coach. He is a Roman, and he is not so well-known as one of my staff as you are.”

“Then you plan to have them leave after the afternoon rest?” Matyas asked.

“I doubt her brother will tolerate any delays beyond that,” said Ragoczy drily. “He is already chafing at having to wait.”

“Fool!” Matyas spat. “All right. The servants’ coach will be ready just after the nap is over, and Amerigo will be on the box.” He made a gesture to show his poor opinion of Leocadia’s brother. “He has done this badly.”

“That he has,” said Ragoczy. He signaled his approval to Matyas. “I’ll give the orders to Amerigo.”

“As you wish,” said Matyas, and went back toward his quarters to finish his meal while Ragoczy returned to his old villa, going to the servants’ dining room where he found the men-at-arms regaling the staff of Villa Vecchia with tales of their dealings with Ursellos Calav- eria y Vacamonte; he stood just inside the door, listening.

“—and so drunk that he could not hold his stirrup to mount,” one was saying, nudging his nearest comrade in the arm with his elbow.

Another laughed aloud and struck the table with the flat of his hand so hard that the crockery and cutlery jumped. “His horse ... his horse had his back up; his neck was swung around and he was showing teeth. You could tell he didn’t want any part of his rider.” He took a long swig of wine and tried to go on. “You could see he was ready to toss that jackanapes over his shoulder as soon as he managed to get a leg over.”

“Probably the same thing with the taproom wench,” a third interjected, and howled with hilarity, which was taken up by Ragoczy’s servants.

“Well? What happened?” asked Amerigo, who was laughing as heartily as the men-at-arms.

“What do you think? He was tossed into the water trough.” The man-at-arms was barely able to get this last out he was so consumed with laughter.

Everyone was enjoying this story, and would have continued to be amused but the assistant cook caught sight of Ragoczy, and made a warning gesture to his companions. “The Conte,” he said, and the room became silent.

Ragoczy offered a swift, charming smile. “I would like to have seen that for myself,” he admitted; the tension in the room dissipated as quickly as it occurred. “Amerigo, when you are done here, please come to the reception room.”

Amerigo ducked his head, proud at being singled out, but mildly embarrassed as well. “Before my nap?”

“If you will be so good to accommodate me,” Ragoczy confirmed; he made a gesture of good-will before leaving the servants and going back to the small reception room. He found Ursellos halfway through a roasted capon rubbed with herbs and stuffed with apples and onions; a near-empty bottle of Lachrymi Christi stood at his elbow next to a goblet of Venetian glass.

“Your cook
is
good,” Ursellos conceded as he carved off another slice of breast; he looked as if making such a concession cost him dearly.

“Thank you; I shall tell him you said so,” Ragoczy replied, and without the usual courteous preamble, said, “I have arranged to have one of my coaches ready for your sister’s use as soon as the afternoon nap is over. My coachman will bring the vehicle back, so you need have no trouble on its account.”

“After the nap?” Ursellos did his best to summon up indignation at that postponement, but knew that his men-at-arms would insist upon it. “Well, if that is the best you can do, I must be content.”

“As I perceive,” said Ragoczy quietly.

“That maid will tend to my sister, I suppose,” he went on.

“She will accompany her to Roma if that is your sister’s wish; she will provide your sister the service she requires. She will return with the coach once your sister is back with your family.” Ragoczy did not look directly at Ursellos for fear of giving the young man some new excuse to be offended.

“That will maintain appearances,” said Ursellos, downing the last of the wine in his goblet and pouring the last of what was in the bottle into his goblet. He glowered down at the remains of his capon. “I thought about what you said, and it is probably best to behave as if she is still worthy. We have kept her absence acceptable, saying she was in Spain. She might yet be an acceptable bride for Archbishop Walmund’s brother.”

Ragoczy shook his head. “Perhaps she would prefer another bridegroom.”

“Of course she would.” Ursellos laughed to show his disdain for such notions. “Most women want handsome, rich, young, chaste men to marry, but they do not often have such opportunities, nor would they have the wits to fix the affections of such a man. You’ve been about the world enough to know that.”

“Oh, yes,” said Ragoczy. “I have been about the world.”

Ursellos caught the ironic note in Ragoczy’s voice and finally looked at him. “She will marry as our brother sees fit. She does not have to like the man, she need only give him the sons the contract stipulates, and then she may secure a separate maintenance for herself; it’s a reasonable concession, and she knows it. The contract has been made and it is necessary that she do as we require.”

Ragoczy studied Ursellos for a long moment, aware that he could say nothing that would make the Spanish dandy comprehend the unfairness he saw in this arbitrary arrangement. He wished he could speak with Leocadia about this forthcoming marriage, to try to discover if that was her reason for running away; the opportunity for such a conversation was gone now, for he could not have a private discussion with Leocadia without convincing Ursellos that he had been more than a host to Leocadia. For her sake, he would have to keep his peace. “Your brother has the authority to do this,” he said at last, because he had to say something.

“That he has,” Ursellos agreed smugly as he downed the last of the wine. “That he has.”

#
      
a
      
ft

Text of a letter from Alessandro Scarlatti to Niklos Aulirios, carried by Scarlatti’s copyist, Addiso Cicogna.

To Niklos Aulirios at Senza Pari, the sincere greetings of Alessandro Scarlatti, with apologies for the two weeks it has taken me to respond to your note.

Yes, most certainly I am anxious to resume rehearsals for the opera, and now that the flurry around Alessandro VIII’s coronation is over, I have only the flurry for the Nativity to contend with, and so have decided to send my copyist to you so that he may begin to make the parts for our musicians. This is a project after my own heart and I long to return to rehearsals on it as soon as such may be arranged to our mutual satisfaction. I have done more work on the score, although not as much as I would like to have done. I suppose we will resume our rehearsals immediately after Epiphany, by which time, Addiso Cicogna should be caught up with his copying. Yes, I have hired a copyist for this opera alone, so that it will not take forever to prepare the parts.

I realize I am asking you to provide Cicogna with room and board, as you have done for Maurizio—when he has not been at Ragoczy’s Villa Vecchia. I apologize for imposing on your hospitality in this way, but I am stymied in regard to the necessary copying we will require to continue rehearsals and I rely upon you to assist me in this; it may be an abuse of your good-will, and if it is, I heartily apologize and ask that you forgive me for any impertinence I have shown. Assuming that you will be willing to accommodate Cicogna, I am sending nine gold apostles to compensate you for any expenses you may incur because of his presence. The sum should keep him in supplies until his work is done; he is not a glutton, but if you wish me to provide for his food as well, you must inform me of that. Cicogna is not a demanding fellow. If you put him in the room where we have rehearsed with a writing table, quills, and ink, I doubt he will make a nuisance of himself, for he is a quiet, studious sort of man, not given to any excess except in his zeal for his work. You need not fear for the chambermaids—or the footmen, for that matter—with Cicogna about. His attitude is excellent: respectful and dedicated. If I had the means to house Cicogna here, I would, but my quarters are cramped as it is, and I know he will need more space for his work than I can provide, and more quiet as well. If there is any difficulty, I will speak to Ra- goczy and determine some other arrangements.

With your suit coming before Magistrate della Rovere, no doubt you will have much on your mind. I do not mean to interfere with your case, and l pray you will not find Cicogna an intrusion. Make him a nest in a chimney, after his namesake, if he becomes too much of a burden. If my levity offends you, ignore it, and attribute it to a schedule which has left me giddy.

I shall do myself the pleasure of calling on you three days before the Nativity Mass, in order to put our schedules in order for the opera. Badly as I may show it I am deeply grateful for your many kindnesses to me and my musicians in your very difficult time. May God grant you prevail before the Magistrate, and may you relish the fruits of victory.

With every assurance of my high regard and esteem,

Alessandro Scarlatti

On the 29th day of November, at Roma

Post Scriptum: Ettore Colonna is still in mourning for his friend Brus- chi, and has canceled his Nativity fete, which is unfortunate for many of us, as he usually employs more than thirty musicians for the occasion; we are therefore wholly at your disposal on that day. However, he has assured me that he will have a small entertainment on Epiphany, so I must honor that commitment for Twelfth Night. If the Nativity is not inconvenient for you, I will be glad to provide the musicians we discussed some months ago. If you have made other arrangements, I wholly understand. In any case, let us hope that the Nativity season is a pleasant one for all of us.

BOOK: Communion Blood
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